When I first saw that the title to episode 3 of this season was going to be “Oathbreaker,” I assumed Brienne would be a key cog in the narrative. Brienne has a sword named “Oathkeeper,” yet her allegiances (those she has been fiercely loyal to all of them) have changed more than any other character in the show (oh the irony if they would’ve spotlighted that).
But Sansa and her protector did not even make an appearance last night. Instead, we get “Oathbreakers” in every other location of the show. Jon’s killers are oathbreakers and they received their comeuppance tonight. Jon himself is an oathbreaker for ending his time as Lord Commander (well maybe not, but we’ll discuss that later) and for defying death (I would say being stabbed multiple times in the chest constitutes an oath with the flesh that you should not be walking around living anymore).
And “Oathbreakers” were not limited to the Wall. In the North, Ramsey (the ultimate “Oathbreaker”) received a pledge from the Umbers, who were breaking an oath they swore to the Starks. Sam swore he would take Gilly to Oldtowne, but he informs Gilly of his real plans to leave her with his family. Tommen vowed last week that he would get some balls, but instead he breaks that vow by getting lured into another lecture and changing nothing. Daenarys wasn’t supposed to go out into the world after her Khal died (Even though I don’t think anyone actually told her that. To which the Dothraki would just respond with “Well, it is known.”) and now must wait for the living Khals to decide what to do with her. Even Bran in his flashbacks witnesses his honorable father breaking an Oath of sorts (well, not really an oath he made, just that the story he always heard about his father was either exaggerated or a downright lie).
Season six has been about the changing of allegiances and the redrawing of lines as old familiar players in the game are replaced by those who’ve been waiting in the wings. Replacing that old guard requires some betraying of old oaths.
We can also count on (at least so far) Season Six episodes starting and ending at the Wall. So I will start on the Narrow Sea (I think), where of course, Sam is struggling with seasickness.
The Narrow Sea
Sam is like that kid in school who has an allergy to everything. I wonder how much puking he did to get to Castle Black in the first place before he gained all this courage he has now over the last five seasons.
But Sam is also nervous about the news he must break to Gilly: she’s not going with him to Oldtown. He’s going to train to be a maester and the Citadel (where he will be training) will have no place for her and little Sam. He means to take her to Horn Hill to stay with his family while he trains. It’s a bummer Sam is leaving Gilly again, but this plan is much more sound than the one he concocted in season four when he left Gilly at a brothel for her “safety.”
Flashback: The Tower of Joy
This is a scene book readers have been anxiously anticipating. The location is in the Mountains of Dorne and it happens sometime after Robert Baratheon took the throne. The event that started the whole rebellion was Rhaegar Targaryen (Dany’s brother, whose been mentioned in the show, but never seen) “kidnapping” Lyanna Stark (Ned’s sister who we saw as a child last week) and taking her to this tower.
Ned has come to get her back but standing in his way is Arthur Dayne. He was on the King’s Guard at the time and had been instructed by Rhaegar to guard that tower. The reception to this scene from book readers has been mixed. But I think you have to give the show credit for making “The Sword of the Morning” (Dayne’s nickname that gets passed down through his house) a real bad ass. Stark and five others fight Dayne and a second knight. The other knight with Dayne gets taken out quickly leaving Dayne to fight them off himself. Wielding two swords (don’t worry book readers, we will address that later), Dayne takes out all of Starks’ men, leaving him and Ned one on one. Bran is shocked how much better Sir Arthur is than his father. He always heard the story of his father beating “The Sword of the Morning,” so this is eye-opening for him. Dayne disarms Ned and is ready to kill him. But just before he’s about to strike Ned down, Howland Reed (who was knocked down earlier and is the father of Jojen and Meera, the kids who’ve traveled and one is still traveling with Bran) gets up and stabs him in the back, killing the great knight.
A woman screams from the tower and Ned begins to head that way. But the Three-Eyed Raven pisses us all off saying it’s time to go. Thanks, Captain Killjoy!!!! Bran is as upset as we are, and the man in the tree’s reasons don’t reassure him or us. I mean, they are ridiculously vague. And by vague, I mean the most vague answer in the history of television. Apparently, Bran has a job and that job requires learning “everything.” Whatever Captain Killjoy. But you better let us….I mean Bran see what happened in that tower next week!!!
Time for this week’s segment of “Killing time with Daenarys.” This time, it’s in a temple on the plains of Vaes Dothrak. Of course, the mother of dragons is familiar with this locale having spent all of season one there. But one perk to being a former Khaleesi when compared to a current one is your boobs aren’t shown on camera. They strip down Dany (though all we see is her back) and give her a generic robe to wear like the other former Khaleesi’s who live in this random temple. They discuss how they once thought they would take over the world with their Khal only to end up here. And apparently, Daenarys broke the rules by seeing the world after Drogo died. So her fate is still up in the air. Hopefully, Jorah and Daario will get there next week and get her out of there so we can get Dany out of another time wasting story line.
Cue the Law and Order theme music:
Varys, who has a prostitute in his interrogation room. You might recognize her from last season’s first episode, when she betrayed an Unsullied to the Sons of the Harpy. Varys wants to find out whose funding the Harpies (those guys in the gold masks from last season) and threatens to kill her, leaving her son an orphan. The threats work as Vana (I think that’s what her name was) reveals the slave masters of Astapor, Yunkai, and Volantis are behind it. Wow, that really narrows it down.
Varys reveals his info to Tyrion, who instructs Varys to get his little birds on the job of…well, now that we know who his little birds are, I’m not exactly sure what they are going to do.
While waiting for Varys to finish his work, Tyrion was trying to have a conversation with Grey Worm and Missandei to pass the time. I am enjoying Tyrion’s humor again this season. Seeing him try to talk with Dany’s most loyal servants was hysterical. Even though it served no point but to be funny, I am glad to see the wit from the Halfman that’s been largely missing the last two seasons.
Speaking of those little birds, we learn their identity this week: orphans. Peasant children who beg in the streets are what Varys uses to get his information. And it truly is brilliant. No one notices beggar children when they have conversations. They just assume the kids aren’t listening. But with Varys gone, the little birds need a new director of operations. Enter Qyburn, the creator of Frankenmountain, who offers them sweets if they will work for him.
This week’s other scenes in King’s Landing show two very clear factions in the Red Keep. On one side, Jamie and Cersei are with Qyburn and Robert the Strong. On the other side are Kevan Lannister (the hand of the king), Mace Tyrell, Grand Maester Pycelle, and Olenna Tyrell. Kevan and Cersei started feuding last season when he turned down his current post when Cersei offered it. And the feud continues this week, when Kevan incorporated school cafeteria politics. “Oh you can meet with us, but we don’t have to meet with you,” says Tywin’s brother as he and his clique get up and leave. Cersei also wants the “little birds” Qyburn has enlisted to go to all corners of Westeros and get any information they can.
Oh, poor King Tommen. He’s going to get tough. And he really means it this time. Except, once again, he’s hesitant to use force as the High Sparrow coerces Tommen into yet another lecture for the young king. The Sparrow informs Tommen that Cersei still must face trial for her crimes and Tommen wonders how the end of last season wasn’t enough. And I have to agree with him. But walking naked through the streets while peasants beat the crap out of you isn’t enough for Cersei to atone for her sins according to the Pious Fanatic.
Same story, new location for Arya this week as she continues to get blind beatings from the Waif, just inside the House of Black and White instead of out on the street. But as she goes over her previous life and accepts that she truly is no one, something miraculous happens. Arya starts striking back. And I was excited to see this not just for Arya, but to see that teacher’s pet get hers. The Waif is like a bully from school who was in good standing with the teachers, so it’s like sanctioned bullying. But Arya finally comes out on top, much to the displeasure of the Waif.
Jaqen is so impressed that he gives Arya the chance to earn her sight back. What kind of assassin will Arya be now that she has paid her penance for disobeying the faceless men last season and truly is “no one?”
Ramsey has taken his place has Warden of the North and now must gain the allegiance of other Northern houses. The Karstarks joined him last week and this week it’s the Umbers (a very loyal house to the Starks at the start of the War of Five Kings) who come to bend the knee (well not that, but they are on Ramsey’s side).
The man seeing Ramsey is The Smalljon Umber. His father, the Greatjon, was in season one, but has apparently died, leaving the Smalljon head of the house. He hated Roose Bolton for the Red Wedding. But he also doesn’t like Jon Snow for letting Wildlings past the Wall. So here he is pledging allegiance to Ramsey. But he won’t bend the knee. Instead, he offers a gift: Rickon Stark!!!! Missing since season three when Bran sent Rickon to stay with the Stark’s “loyal” bannermen, Rickon reappears here as a prisoner and key piece to Ramsey’s hold on the North. Also reappearing is Osha, the Wildling traveling with Rickon. When Ramsey request proof this is Rickon, the Smalljon drops a severed direwolf head. That would be Shaggydog, Rickon’s direwolf. Ramsey is growing his alliances at a very fast rate. Who will be left to oppose his growing stronghold in the North?
We conclude where the show (once again) started and ended this week. Jon is awake and alive, but he’s not happy. Even though he’s back in the land of the living, Jon must deal with the failure that death allowed him to ignore. Davos and Melisandre give him some encouraging words (including an acknowledgement by Mel that she was wrong about Stannis, but that Jon was the one that was promised). That’s at least enough to get Jon to walk outside to see the shocked faces of the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings. Tormund is the only one who can get a smile out of Jon this week, joking about the size of his pecker being proof that he’s not a god.
But Jon does not stay happy long. Clearly, Jon doesn’t feel like he deserves to return. He’s so upset with his “failure” and his current state that Jon only commits one more act as Lord Commmader: execute his betrayers.
One of the strengths of this show is it’s ability to draw sympathy for characters we otherwise hate. We gain this sympathy from the final words of Jon’s betrayers. Allister Thorne says he still thinks what he did was right. And while we’ve been conditioned to hate Thorne, he does have a point. He’s never seen the Whitewalkers, so the Wildlings are the primary threat to Westeros in his eyes. It doesn’t make what he did to Jon right, but his thinking is understandable.
Even more justifiable is Olly. Olly watched these people looking on at his execution raid his village and kill everyone in it. He also doesn’t know of a greater threat and Jon can’t look at his one time steward and the boy who saved his life without shedding tears. But Jon does his duty and cuts the rope, hanging all four men (not sure what happened to all the other guys that stabbed him, but this was more thematic than getting fifteen sets of last words would’ve been).
After the job is done, Jon hands Edd his coat, saying his watch has ended and walks away. Now, the Nights Watch vows are until death. And technically, Jon has died. So he may be justified here. But where does he, the Nights Watch, and the Wildlings go from here if Jon means to leave his post?
Character Callback: The Umbers/ The Greatjon was one of Robb’s most loyal followers back in season one. He threatened boy king in Winterfell only to have his fingers cut off by Robb’s wolf, Grey Wind. After that, he apparently followed Robb until the end. Even though we haven’t seen him since that first season, we are left to assume he died with Robb’s other forces fighting the War of Five Kings or at the Red Wedding.
-In the text, The Greatjon is currently held captive at the Twins while the Smalljon was killed at the Red Wedding.
Character Callback: Osha and Rickon/Rickon is the youngest and quietest of the Starks. He escaped Winterfell with his brother, Osha, the Reeds, and Hodor, back in Season 2. As I said earlier, Bran sent Rickon and Osha to the Umbers to keep them safe while he continued his track to the Three-Eyed Raven.
-I know Ramsey thinks he has a new girl to play games with in Osha. But something tells me Osha will be more than he is bargaining for (too bad for him Theon’s not around to warn him about the Wildling).
Location Callback: Astapor, Yunkai, and Volantis/ The first two are the first two cities Daenarys conquered, both in season three. She left ruling councils in charge to maintain the former slave cities as free. But both are back under control of the slave masters, who’ve reinstituted slavery. Varys and Tyrion walked through Volantis last season and Tyrion was captured by Jorah there. Dany never freed it, but business was hurt for the city with more slaves than any other in the world by Dany’s previous conquerings.
-“You’re not the queen. You have to be married to the king to be queen. But given your family situation, I can see why it’s confusing.”
Olenna Tyrell, given only one line, steals the show yet again. I’m so glad we have the Queen of Thorns back.
-In the books, Arthur Dayne was also famous for fighting with Dawn, the famous sword of House Dayne. I was a little disappointed that was not the sword he used here. But it was still impressive seeing him handle the duel swords and it makes more sense for him to be using two swords if he’s going to fight through six guys by himself (yes, there was another guy, but he was out pretty quickly).
-What is next for Jon and the men at the Wall? What will it take to get Jon’s heart back in the game?
-Whose next to join Ramsey in in his alliance to keep control of the North?
-A whole bunch of threats and words in King’s Landing with little to no action. When is the powder keg that is King’s Landing going to finally blow up?
-Whose Arya’s first kill going to be now that she’s back in the good graces of The Faceless Men?
-What door are Sansa and Brienne walking into next week? And what is Baelish up to now that he’s returning next week?
-How does Cersei and Olenna plan on getting Margaery out of the Holy Sept? And is Cersei really going to work with the Tyrells?
-Will Tyrion try more conversation with Dany’s boring allies next week?
-I think I can guess, but what is Lyanna screaming about in that tower?
Not as good as last week, but “Oathbreaker” did keep most of last week’s big reveals moving forward in a (mostly) positive direction. See you next week.